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Ancestral Reverence in times of Grief

Today is a day for tending my ancestral altars.

A lot of my work centres on guiding those of us who are part of the British/Northwestern European diaspora to come back into relationship with our ancestors, ancestral cultures, historic homelands, and languages. When the line has been cut for so long, it can be incredibly overwhelming and grief-ful to tap into the threads of disconnection, and people of a diaspora can feel this particularly acutely. When we no longer live on our homelands, and maybe have never even visited them, the sense of rootlessness and disorientation can be inescapable.

A question I am asked fairly often in my line of work is around how to process the intense, gaping, wound of disconnection. How can we connect with ancestry, lineage, land, and culture when we are so far away? How can we really make up for the sheer volume of wisdom and kinship that has been lost? Will our ancestors even recognize us when we call out to them?

For many, this is quite overwhelming and hard to bear.

As having been on both sides of this - born and raised on my ancestral homelands, yet now living as part of a diaspora and raising my children as such - my answer to this is:

It’s ok. They are in you. They are you. You are you because of who they are. They live entangled in your DNA, your energetic field, your face, your hands, your blood. You and they are not separate beings.

From this place, we breathe into this stability of knowing that the simple desire to reconnect is really all it takes to rekindle relationship.

As someone who has lived both in Europe and North America, I know the intensity of grappling with injury and wounding towards people and places I care deeply for when I cannot be there to help, to be involved, to be present with the onslaught. It never feels right, and makes me question what I am doing living out my life so far away more so than usual. This is going on for various communities and people all the time. We migrate, but we are still attached to something. Whether it is you feeling it this week, or someone from a different community, it’s an ever-present eality that some of us are grappling with at any given time.

So when it is particularly acute, and times feel particularly hopeless, I find it reparative to tend to my ancestral altars. To speak with the wise dead. To sit with the gravity of hundreds of thousands of years of kinship. To have my grief held by thousands of voices and hands. Sometimes, just this is the most we can do.

Much love to all.